Malaysia over the last two years has entered into a deep and inexorable “systemic crisis”

By Clive Kessler, Professor of Sociology at the University of New South Wales

A second major post-independence regime crisis.

The first post-independence political dispensation lasted from 1957 to 1969, when it collapsed in the wake of national elections that demonstrated rapidly diminishing support for the inter-ethnic governing coalition among both the nation’s Malay and non-Malay citizens.

A second dispensation was accordingly created, designed to last for twenty years until 1990.   Grounded in the view that the 1969 crisis had stemmed from a profound sense of Malay exclusion from the benefits of independence and national development, its core political imperative  was a far-reaching national project of pro-Malay affirmative action. Implementation of these bold programmes required the development of an ever-stronger state that came increasingly to dominate Malaysian society.

But even after 1990 the same policies continued to be pursued, in fact even from strongly than before. These expanded measures were now justified not as necessary for the overcoming of Malay relative social deprivation and exclusion but in the name of assuring “ketuanan melayu” or comprehensive Malay political dominance, ascendancy, or “hegemony”.

At the same time, the period from 1970 saw the pronounced rise of new forms of militant political Islam in Malaysia, which the government, especially under Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s long prime ministership, sought [with a major contribution from his protege Anwar Ibrahim from 1982 to 1997] to co-opt and outflank with its own Islamic “modernist” project of counter-IslamiSation.

Ultimately, competition between Dr. Mahathir’s government and the Malaysian Islamic Party [PAS] served to promote only the interests of PAS and the new Islamic political activists, not those of Dr. Mahathir, his government and party.

As a result, during Dr. Mahathir’s long prime ministership, the Malay political agenda became increasingly demanding, insistent and central; the Islamist political agenda and its promoters became increasingly adamant and ambitious;  and, to the extent that they remained distinct, the Malay political agenda itself increasingly became an Islamic, or Islamist, agenda. A convergence occurred, one that became increasingly central to and powerful within national political life.

The Islamic agenda had its own autonomous sources and impetus.  But the Islamist agenda also fed upon and was fuelled by Malay ethnic sentiments and ambitions. Conversely, the Islamist imperative  with its powerful political “idioms” and rhetoric were now increasingly employed to drive, and also served to promote–and even politically to “sacralise” and so place beyond question–the new imperative of “Ketuanan Melayu”/Malay ascendancy, a nationally defining project that the ever more powerful Malaysian state now saw as its main task to promote.

The cost of this growth in the power and centrality, even irresistibility, of the new Islamist and Malay “ethno-supremacist” agenda was threefold. These developments made it increasingly difficult for the state’s non-Malay citizens to support, or even respect, the government, its purposes and assurances; similarly, it offended the sensibilities of many younger, more inclusive and “democratically-inclined” Malays who gave high importance to social justice and the equality of all of the state’s citizens, irrespective of gender, religion and ethnicity; and it involved a largely covert reinterpretation of the Malaysian constitution, which had been promulgated in 1957 as the foundational charter for an emerging modern, social democratic, multiethnic, religiously pluralist and secular nation.

So long as Dr. Mahathir held power, he was able to hold together this ever more explosive mix, or bundle of policy contradictions. But under his milder successor  Abdullah Ahmad Badawi this was no longer possible.

As a result, the government, led by Abdullah Badawi to the polls in 2008, suffered a massive political reversal–again, as in 1969, among both Malay and non-Malay voters.  In effect, Malaysia’s second post-independence political dispensation, which under Dr. Mahathir was made to maintain an unduly protracted afterlife far beyond its 1990 “sunset-date”, was simply “blasted away” by the massive expression of anti-governments sentiment at the 2008 elections. Malaysia’s long serviceable governing formula and its underlying logic, that had been placed under growing strain by Islamist and Malay ethnosupremacist pressures [working both independent and ever more in concert] from 1970 to 2008, simply collapsed. It no longer enjoyed adequate public credibility or confidence.

In response, the Malaysian government since 2008 has sought to restore its position not by moving to the centre and restoring political and religious moderation and inter-ethnic conciliation. Instead it has decided that the major, and immediately urgent, imperative is to “shore up” and consolidate its position among the nation’s “core” political community, the Malays–who not only are the demographic and electoral majority but the group from whom in overwhelming part the nation’s police and armed forces are drawn.

To do this it has abandoned any pretence of commitment to a modernist Islamic “counter-mobilization”.  Instead, it has sought to recapture, corral and “harvest” Malay ethnic and committed Islamist support in  its radical Malay and Islamist opponents’ own preferred terms.

After half a century and more of an  ”Islamist policy auction” between the government and the opposition Islamic party, the government has bowed out, ceased to make counter-bids. In a different metaphor, it now sings the same song as the Islamic opposition, the opposition’s chosen tune: perhaps in a whisper rather than in loud voice but none the less with full conviction [and out of perceived pragmatic necessity!].

Long-term developments over the preceding decades reached their culmination after the 2008 elections.  Except among a few brave and principled opponents outside of “official circles”, Malaysia has seen and assented to the retreat of the Islamic modernist and the secularist alternatives to the new assertive Islamism.   Those who had long been the main opponents of militant political Islam from within the government and political establishment have now capitulated to Islamist pressures and demands.

As early as 1969 the Islamic party had made clear its determination to use the political system of electoral democracy tactically and strategically: to deprive the Islamically more moderate and secular government of popular Malay support and so make the government ultimately dependent on the votes that the islamic party could mobilize. By denying the government popular malay support and religious legitimacy, it sought to acquire the leverage enabling it to make the government do its bidding, to become its hostage in policy terms. That strategy has now succeeded and come to fruition. The next stage of malaysian politics now begins.

As Malaysia now seeks, after the collapse of the second, to construct its third post-independence political “dispensation”, it is doing so under conditions where the ideas and goals, as well as the continuing political dynamism and impetus, of the ethnically-minded Malay Islamists now set the ideological terms of the national agenda and, as both government and Malay Islamist opposition alike now view things, its unfolding “narrative”.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 3:33 am

    Frankly if rakyat consider all facts objectively, then they would realise dat this nation is ruined n held back by d selfish racist Umno Malays n their nonMalay MCA, MIC, Gerakan, etc cronies
    It’s high time now 2 get rid of them so dat d nation can move on n all rakyat can work together 4 d benefits of all
    Educate voters 2 vote 4 anyone (regardless of race n place of birth) who is competent, clean, n fair 2 represent them
    We need 2 break away fr d Umno/BN style of politics n governance
    We need a new beginning n mental revolution

  2. #2 by johnnypok on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 5:22 am

    Bak Kut Teh is largely responsible for the systemmatic destruction of the economy. He cannot deny that his billionaire son is one of the many nominees. Sabah has been politically and economically destroyed by him. He has made so many costly mistakes, due to his high-handed attitude, including losing billions to George Soros. Well, he is the father of corruption. He is also the architect of sodomy and Kangaroo court. He even worship MUGABEE and now we are suffering from the deadly Zimbabwee virus.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 8:02 am

    Clive Kessler’s piece here is an excellent no holds barred calling ‘a spade a spade’ assessment of where the country is heading – a stage by stage surrender by moderate Islamic modernists and the secularists alternatives to Islamists and Malay “ethno-supremacists” (one and indivisible) due to the “Islamist policy auction” between the government (led by UMNO) and the opposition Islamic party (PAS).. ..

    Thanks to TDM’s 2 decade long Islamisation programme to out-Islamise PAS, the ethno-supremacists/Islamists are now embedded everywhere – within the government apparatus like civil service, the religious, educational establishments security services etc and certainly within both sides of political divide within UMNO & the PR Opposition (whether in PAS or PKR) and outside-the NGOs……

    TDM reared and bred tiger that he thought he could domesticate. As the tiger gets bigger and stronger, instead of being controlled by its trainer, the tiger now controls the trainer and makes him do its bid.

    As both government and Malay Islamist opposition alike now view things , the ethno-supremacists/Islamists have basically succeeded in defining, in ideological terms, the national agenda as they desire it (reference to Clive Kessler’s last two paragraphs of his piece). So what are inferences that may be drawn from Clive Kessler’s piece especially the last two paragraphs on what will happen in the “next stage”, assuming he were right in his assessment?

    1. Ethno-supremacists/Islamists hold the balance of power between UMNO & PAS, backing whosoever that uphold their goals and aspirations.

    2. If UMNO/BN thrives/triumphs, by hook or crook, over the Opposition the ethno-supremacists/Islamists’ agenda will be continued.

    3. If UMNO/BN loses to Opposition PR, which is more likely because of the singular factor of corruption to which UMNO/BN is identified, the ethno-supremacists/Islamists will make sure the new ruling coalition uphold their agenda or forfeit their support. As earlier said they hold the balance of power.

    4. This implies that after PR wins, fellow ethno-supremacists/Islamists within PAS and PKR will surface, reassert and consolidate power, marginalise and put into backwaters secularist and plural advocates including DAP itself who have to put up with ethno-supremacists/Islamists’ pressures to participate in whatever power there is in the then ruling PR coalition.

    5. If they succeed, and chances are that they will, non malays and moderate liberal Malays hoping for change from the increasing ethno-supremacists/Islamist – centric direction of national politics will once again be disappointed and disillusioned, and many will emigrate.

    6. The country will go the way of Sudan/Zimbabwe whoever (BN or PR) wins because it is the ethno-supremacists/Islamist agenda that eventually wins!

  4. #4 by wanderer on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 8:21 am

    It does not take a intellect to see what UMNO-BN coalition is all about. In short, a group of corrupted minds ripping the govt coffers to the maximum….
    using the racial card to promote their ambitions, robbing the country dry!
    UMNO elites get the meat completely and the bones thrown off the table to the beggars, MCA, MIC and Gerakan.
    What is there left for the rakyat?
    If we continue to put these UMNO supremacist back to power, we deserve what we got!

  5. #5 by chengho on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 8:32 am

    prof clive,
    you have to do the same to your ABO , affirmative action ,don’t turn them becoming alkoholic. you only welcome the migration of caucasian not asian that why now slowly and systematically you have Indian bashing , China bashing and Malaysian bashing.

  6. #6 by PRU13 @ on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 10:35 am

    sorry chengho – i don’t find your opinions relevant at all.

    cyber-trooper from UMNO?

  7. #7 by dagen on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 11:32 am

    Umno moved away from centre and pas moved towards centre. Somewhere they met. And umno would continue to move away in its perverted idea of re-capturing support and power. Pas realised the importance of inclusiveness in order to remain relevant. So pas would continue to shift to middle ground – where dap and pakatan is. I dont see anything new with what was written by the author, prof kessler above. [Oddly and in fact wrongly, chengho addressed him as prof clive.]

    But umno do know the right thing to do. Jib pronounced that umno must change or it will be changed. Gone are the days of “government knows best”, he said. Unfortunately jib has neither power nor will. Like sleepy head before him, he would either have to walk alone or be booted out. The latter was not a choice really. He cannot face the wrath of mother gobi (as rumoured which he denied) without his premiership clothes.

    So sit tight he must and comply with the wishes of the rest of umno he would. And the rest in umno wants a greater slice of the economic pie. That is perfectly alright and in fact acceptable if the greater share was procured through active participation in the economy and with great labour.

    But in malaysia wealth could be had with neither such active participation nor labour. Just ask and you will be given government contracts. Not just any contracts, but contracts which the prices can be inflated 10 or even 20 times. That is legit in umno terms. That is mamak’s patented recipe for accumulating instant wealth. And the 2 most beautiful parts of the recepi are this: (a) completion of the contract is not necessary and (b) good workmanship is strictly prohibited. Having scrupples in umno’s terms means do what you want and eat all you can.

    If not for umno’s control of the media, the judiciary, the AG, the police, the macc, the army, the ISA and OSA etc etc, we could have got rid of umno and as a nation we could have saved hundreds of billions (which otherwise would be lost through corruption and abuse).

  8. #8 by limkamput on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 12:42 pm

    //So long as Dr. Mahathir held power, he was able to hold together this ever more explosive mix, or bundle of policy contradictions. //

    This is nonsense, the explosion and the demise would have be quicker if he has continued in power.

  9. #9 by limkamput on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 12:47 pm

    //As a result, the government, led by Abdullah Badawi to the polls in 2008, suffered a massive political reversal–again, as in 1969, among both Malay and non-Malay voters. //

    If Mahathir had led the 2004 general election, PR would have been in power either in 2004 or 2008.

  10. #10 by limkamput on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 1:08 pm

    5. If they succeed, and chances are that they will, non malays and moderate liberal Malays hoping for change from the increasing ethno-supremacists/Islamist – centric direction of national politics will once again be disappointed and disillusioned, and many will emigrate.

    6. The country will go the way of Sudan/Zimbabwe whoever (BN or PR) wins because it is the ethno-supremacists/Islamist agenda that eventually wins!//Jeffrey

    Of course everything is possible. Can we not also assume that PR, despite also ethno-supremacists/Islamists (or whatever, and that is the problem with people who think too much), are less likely to be as corrupted or abusive as those in BN/UMNO? We have 50 years of experience with UMNO, can we not give 5 to 10 years to PR? Precisely, we have view like you, and that is why we will continue to oscillate and procrastinate and in the meantime, one generation has grown up and the other generation has grown old. Cut the sh!t, take risk and move on. We have no time to have too many “ifs” now. Ethno-supremacist took central stage because the leadership was corrupted, not because it has fought for bangsa, agama dan Negara.

  11. #11 by dagen on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 2:12 pm

    I support limkamput’s observation @ #8 & 9.

    The situation was so bad then that mamak had to retire early. If he had stayed on the MV Umno would surely have capsized then and malaysia today would be a safer and much more pleasant place to live in, and the nation as a whole would be on track to prosperity. No more waiting and guessing games for the stupid NEM.

    Someone in MT cautioned us of the pendulum effect, recounting the swing back and forth between support for umno during mamak’s time and then support of pakatan when anwar was convicted and then back again for umno during badawi’s time and finally, back to pakatan in 308. By his prediction, the swing will be back again to umno and he used the badawi swing as support for his caution.

    Umno is on the way down. Umno is not capable of making the necessary changes to prevent that from becoming a reality. The downward movement started towards the end of mamak’s era and culminated with the sacking and wrongful criminal accusation of anwar. Umno could well have ended then until badawi came into the scene. Hope were re-ignited. That he is mr clean (huh?). That he is mr sensible (unlike mamak that is). That he is more tolerant (which was true). And more importantly that he will not waste our country’s money on needless and meaningless self-gratifying super mega projects. In short, there was an overall feel-good aura about him. It was therefore not unexpected for the election that year he took office to swing decisively back to umno.

    Look a jib. One year on and what do we see? Nothing but romises, promises and more promises. Slogans, slogans and more slogang. Wayangs, wayangs and more wayangs. Abuses, abuses and more abuses. No renewed confidence in the hearts of the general populace. No hope of better times expressed. No general feel good factor. Instead, jib quite undisputably has added to all of umno’s existing and already bad and mismanaged woes.

    By my reckoning, for umno GE13 ought to be much worse than GE12. Victory for pakatan is within sight I believe. And hulu selangor is a lost cause for them. Raja Petra predicted a margin of 5-6k in zaid’s favour. That is not unachievable. After all umno is now sleeping with the killers, torturers and abusers of muslims in palestine. Umno has deceived non-malays long enough and they are now totally fed-up. They have also been cheating malays all these while under the seemingly innocent and genuine guise of ketuanan, religion and rulers. The time has come for malays to show umno the way to behave and to teach them to respect voters. Kick them out of parliament one by one in all by-elections. Kick them out en block in GE13.

    Lets do it.

    Selamatkan Malaysia.

  12. #12 by k1980 on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 2:57 pm

    badawi is no mr clean. He is mr fair, due to the vast amount of SK2 he applies daily on his thick brown skin

  13. #13 by Loh on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 5:59 pm

    ///But even after 1990 the same policies continued to be pursued, in fact even from strongly than before. These expanded measures were now justified not as necessary for the overcoming of Malay relative social deprivation and exclusion but in the name of assuring “ketuanan melayu” or comprehensive Malay political dominance, ascendancy, or “hegemony”.///

    There was no need for NEP for the so-called affirmative action. It was needed to justify the explanation of May 13.

    By 1969, over 100,000 Malay families have enjoyed rubber and palm oil acreage amounting to over a million acres. That was as high as the total estate acreage owned by the foreigners, now under Malay(sian) ownership. Yet when estate acreages were computed as ownership share capital belonging to foreigners which amounted to 40%, Malays were said to owned only 1.43 per cent in 1970. If FELDA’ palm oil and oil palm “small holdings’ organised in the form as estates were run have been properly valued and included as equity share capital owned by Malays, the ownership figure would have shown 18% then in 1970. But even today, not only FELDA’s plantations added ZERO value to Malays ownership share capital, enterprises owned by FELDA would still be classified as owned by UNKOWN race.

  14. #14 by monsterball on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 6:23 pm

    It is interesting to note….a British Professor understands Malaysia dirty politics by UMNO well.
    This shows…the whole world is watching events unfolding …one by one with concern and interest.

  15. #15 by limkamput on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 6:58 pm

    See the half baked ball, can’t get one thing right and yet want to talk so much.

  16. #16 by monsterball on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 7:23 pm

    That Lim Suck Ass thinks my mistake on saying British Professor .which should be an such a great mistake…in my message.
    I have written hundreds of thousand messages…and this Lim Suck Ass keep thinking he is smarter than me. like Lim Suck Ass who declared himself as the biggest scumbag in this blog…feels no shame at all…making a real fool of himself..calling me “half baked ball”.
    He simply hates to be reveal…who he actually is…and yours trully have decoded his nick…exposing him…as Lim who love to suck asses….with a useless tool..cannot pakai.
    He will forever be a bachelor.
    Next profession…sell put instead of sucking one of the many chow kit lane.

  17. #17 by limkamput on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 7:33 pm

    See, this is even worse than half baked. I think only 1/4 baked. Aiyoyo, simple thing only lah, how come cannot get it right one? Anyway it is EPL time, big matches, can’t afford to argue with raw ball.

  18. #18 by monsterball on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 7:34 pm

    Lets see Lim Suck Ass can stop bragging with his useless “debating” and talk more of his “limkumput” ..which I have decoded. Let him prove I am wrong.
    Monsterball….why as like so…a ball as big as your pea brain….with guts and IQ far far more advanced than yours…you idiot.
    Lim = his surname Lim.
    kam…hokkien word for sucking
    put….hokkien word for ass
    All can also presume.he is hokkien too…correct correct correct?
    WOW!!..I am so proud of by brain…getting better and better…hahahahahaha
    Lim suck ass stayed same like before…no change…just full of sh..t…and what a braggart he is.
    Did you not declare you are the biggest scumbag in this blog…lim suck ass?
    Come on…tell the truths.
    One word?? .my oh my….so many intelligent words…jealous ah?

  19. #19 by monsterball on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 7:38 pm

    Come on Lim Suck not make excuses. Match is half an hour way.
    The fact that he responded confirms…he accepted his nick….is Lim Suck Ass….hahahahahahaha
    MACC should employ me to catch crooks…with no violence…just with ass like Lim Suck Ass will confess like an idiot too,
    PS: Alot of time to MU/City match. Don’t run away with no balls la.

  20. #20 by monsterball on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 7:48 pm

    OK…..I will leave him alone..doing his suck job..before the match.
    He needs that…or else his nick cannot be limkamput.
    What a jerk he is…sucking asses fore thrills.
    What a weird half man…half nut ..he lonely…needs to talk kok all the time.
    Luckily.I also can talk kok as good as he is……hahahahahaha
    When he reaches my ages.that is ..if he can live that long…lets see how brainy he will be that time.
    I will not be surprise…instead of sucking ass..he will be sucking his thumb like a baby.
    Got to MU…get walloped!

  21. #21 by tanjong8 on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 7:49 pm

    remember chengho was a eunuch in 15th century china.

    UmnoUtusans are also having the mentality of the same period.

    They must be sent back to the dustbin of histroy.

  22. #22 by monsterball on Saturday, 17 April 2010 - 10:19 pm

    Paul Scholes proved old is not retarded …to young footballers .collecting an odd ball and pounced it into the City net…at last dying seconds of the game…showing braggarts and loud mouths…age is not the matter. It is what up fronts that counts..with his monsterball power gum courage.
    Now wait till 2am and see what Chelsea can do.
    You think Lim Suck Ass can stay that awake …after sucking so many asses for pocket money .day in day out for a living?
    I think his mouth will be wide opened ..snoring.
    If not use Listerine to wash mouth clean…odd creatures will be playing football in his mouth…with puss oozing out…sooner or later.
    The punishment is already written in the lifeline of the such ass man…no women wants to marry…nor go near him.
    Sure ending with no children to his ass loving life with some MCA crooks…all waiting to F him hard in the world of Tong Sampah…where he belongs.

  23. #23 by johnnypok on Sunday, 18 April 2010 - 5:35 am

    2010 to 2013 – Mala_sia share market collapse

    2014 – Mala_sia breaks up into 3 pieces

    2015 – Mala-Ya becomes a colony of Indon

  24. #24 by k1980 on Sunday, 18 April 2010 - 10:24 am

    Will bolehland go bankrupt like Greece?

  25. #25 by monsterball on Sunday, 18 April 2010 - 3:16 pm

    I hear that lumpa suck ass man lost a bundle to the puki in football bets.
    Now Chelsea only one point difference with MU…bookies are going to have a field day..with the last 4 matches.

  26. #26 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 18 April 2010 - 4:45 pm

    ChengHo is grabbing any semblance of BN’s equivalent in behaviour. He likes to link the Aussie-white-only group to justify UMNO’s ultras behaviour. those white-only over there have no Gomen support; here the Gomen certainly close one-eye for some of their actions!! That is the difference.

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